April 25, 2010

Suicide Bomber

A thundering explosion rocks downtown Baghdad, your body recoils at the deafening sound, adrenaline courses through your veins driven by a heart suddenly hammering within your chest. No time to react; the air expands with punishing force as the concussion of a devastating shock wave races through the afternoon air. It roars in your ears, slams you to the ground, snatches the breath from your lungs shaking every structure, and blowing out every window in its unstoppable path.

As you struggle to your feet a searing rush of heat sends you back to your knees scalding your skin with its suffocating cloak. No time to think; shrapnel flies through the air like a million angry bullets simultaneously fired in every direction. Twisted chunks of white hot metal violently crash to the ground like meteors hurled toward the earth by angry gods punishing all in their path. Your ears are screaming, a ringing so loud you cry out but are unable to hear your own voice.

Now on your feet, all around is burning; acrid smoke chokes the air and burns the soft membranes in your nose and throat. In a surreal moment, a gentle Baghdad breeze momentarily clears the scene… are those charred and grizzled shapes within the mangled wreckage human beings? Before you comprehend the horror of what you're seeing, another gust sends a curtain of black smoke across the morbid sight as though to shield the burning corpses from your gaze.

Your hearing slowly returns to the sound of frantic Arabic voices, police and locals swarm onto the street to load the dead and dying into the back of ramshackle pickup trucks. Just how many misguided Iraqis offered up their lives in Allah's name that afternoon? You count the legs, the arms... but the bodies have melded, intermingling in the inferno of the blast. Who knows how many deadly human weapons conspired to sacrifice themselves in that monumental act designed to kill you and as many of your fellow soldiers as possible.

You may not have lost your life that day, but back at home in the US these horrific recurring events have caused you to sacrifice your way of living.

I wrote this based on an account of just one of the suicide bombing missions my husband was caught up in. He says it's an accurate description but rightly pointed out unless you have been through something as horrific as this you cannot possibly convey to others the true force of the impact, explain the indescribable carnage, and the accompanying sounds and sickening smells.

April 2, 2010

Can a Combat Veteran Heal Enough to Have a Longterm Healthy Relationship

I received this email last night and wanted to share about my response,
My name is Sally. I came across your blog while researching PTSD. As a child, I was diagnosed with PTSD, which has lead me to pursue study in the field of Psychology. I am currently and undergraduate student in Some State with hopes of attaining my PhD and working with Veterans. I first and foremost, want to Thank You, for the incredible sacrifices you have made for our country.

Secondly, I was wondering if I could get your opinion on something. I am currently in a relationship with an Infantry soldier stationed at Fort Somewhere named Bob. He will be returning to Iraq for the third time in October. He has not been diagnosed with PTSD, and I do not believe he suffers from it. However, it seems like there are parts of him missing. Although he has never opened up and talked about combat experiences, and I have never asked him too, he has on occasion briefly mentioned some. Any attempt on my part to inquire further is always shut down.

Bob feels he has a duty to keep those things within himself because it would be wrong to share them with anyone who hasn't experienced combat. I understand his feelings, and respect his wishes. Bob does not seem bothered by memories of violence and death as he does from being cheated on while he was on his second tour. Because of this Bob's ability to trust people has been shattered. He cannot open himself to people who love him. He has a really hard time expressing emotions and affection. He is by far the hardest person to communicate with I have ever know. Ironically, as a child I was in the same position. My life will forever consist of a struggle to balance my tendency to disassociate myself with others, and intense desire for protection in love. His condition brings back memories of my former self. He clearly needs love and affection but can not allow himself to receive it. The fact that he is still enlisted, and conditioned to shutdown emotions in order to simply do his job does not help matters.

My question to you is this in your opinion? Can any of us, diagnosed with PTSD, veterans, or both heal enough to have longterm healthy relationships?
Sincerely Sally
My response:

April 1, 2010

Dear Deadly Duo PTSD and TBI

An open letter to PTSD and his evil henchman TBI.

Dear Deadly Duo,

You consider yourselves formidable foes, but I am not scared of you. A pair of cowardly trolls is all you are, and if I could find the bridge beneath which you cower, I would rain down deadly mortars akin to those you send to torture my husband in his nightly dreams, entombing you both in the rubble. But for now I will content myself with stabbing your effigy with venomous fervor, wishing you a slow and painful death or a quick and fiery one, I don't care, I'll take whatever I can get so long as the outcome is your ultimate demise.

And do you have nothing better to do with your spare time than sit around creating disturbingly twisted storyboards, planning out frame by frame the hellish nightmares you have in store for my husband each night? Do you enjoy watching him pass out on the couch, drunk, at 3am 'cause he can't face what you have in store for him when he climbs into bed? If you thought you were the only ones with warped minds, I have a suggestion for a new scene, it shows TBI rolling up one of those drawings into a tight tube and cramming it up PTSD's ass!

Oh Wizard of PTSD, why do you insist on using your evil black magic to transport my husband back to Iraq with cruel and realistic flashbacks. I cannot reach him when you do that, dangling him within my grasp but out of my reach is nothing short of mental abuse. If you're looking for something to abuse I suggest you lock yourself in a closet and abuse your d**k! That is of course if you can find it, and if you can't, I'm sure your boyfriend TBI knows exactly where it is seeing how it has his name tattooed on it and all.

And speaking of TBI, I thank you for the gift of patience although I expect to have several years tacked on to both mine and my husband's lives for all those times he's sat on the couch in suspended animation during his 50-yard-stare episodes. And for all those times I have sat by his side waiting for him to free himself from a bout of stammering before he can start a sentence or engaged in a conversation twice as long as it needed to be as it was peppered with ums and uhs. And for robing him of his career twenty years before he was due to retire for which I should be sending you an invoice by the way. But what's the point? You are the poorest of the poor, and have no worth from which to pay him.

I should thank you also for teaching me how to survey my surroundings in order to forewarn my husband of potential triggers. And for showing me and the kids how to conduct ourselves in a calm and quiet manner so as not to startle him. My hope however PTSD, is that while you're setting one of the booby traps that triggers his anxiety, it will detonate in your face. And don't count on TBI to save you, he doesn't remember anything he learned about first aid, he'd be too confused and disoriented in a stressful situation such as that. Chances are you'd bleed out before help arrived, that is with any luck.

You think you hold all the cards, that all the power is in your hands. It is true that one of you alone could inflict enough damage to do the job quite nicely but still insist on tag teaming without having the decency to play by the rules while one of you waits outside the ropes. I call bullshit on that, two against one are unfair odds, but it's not two against one, I am right by his side to defend and fight back. Deadly duo? I think not. Go crawl back under that bridge from whence you came and hide like the cowards you are. As for me, I'll never stop hunting you down, mortars at the ready.